Carbs, Calories and Health Benefits of Fractionated Coconut Oil
Fractionated coconut oil is oil from the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) tree that has had the lauric acid removed. The word “fractionate” means to separate. Fractionation of coconut oil is a process that uses heat to separate the oil into its components—in this case, to separate out certain fatty acids.
Fractionated coconut oil is often sold as MCT oil and is used by many for health reasons.
But there little scientific evidence to support many of the oil’s most popular uses.
Fats in Fractionated Coconut Oil
Almost all of the fat in coconut oil and fractionated coconut oil is saturated fat. As a general rule, health experts advise consumers to avoid saturated fats in favor of polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat because these fats provide heart-healthy benefits.
However, some healthy eaters have jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon and have begun to use coconut oil in their diets and on their bodies because they believe that the saturated fat in it is healthier than other types of saturated fat.
The reason, they noted is that coconut oil—and specifically fractionated coconut oil—provides healthier fatty acids.
Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid. Lauric acid is known to increase total cholesterol, however, the increase comes from a boost in HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol) rather than LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Lauric acid can be found in some tropical plant oils.
However, when coconut oil is fractionated, the lauric acid is removed, leaving behind capric acid and caprylic acid. These medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) are believed to provide greater health benefits. Sometimes fractionated coconut oil is sold as MCT oil.
MCT oil is especially popular with people following a ketogenic diet because the oil is efficient at producing ketones—the preferred energy source for people on a keto diet.
Fractionated coconut oil and MCT oil benefits are widely promoted online and in the media. In a review of MCT oil products, the Therapeutic Research Center Natural Medicine Database evaluated the science behind its many purported health benefits.
They found that is possibly effective for:
- Muscle and fat loss in cancer patients
- Treatment of seizures
- Treatment of a digestive disorder called Waldmann disease
They found this it is possibly ineffective for:
- Aids-related weight loss
- Enhancing exercise performance
Lastly, the research source found that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of MCT oil for:
- Age-related muscle loss
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chylothorax (a condition in which lymphatic fluid leaks into the space between the lung and chest wall)
- Hypertriglyceridemia (having too much fat in the blood)
Some people, especially those on a high fat or ketogenic diet, find fractionated coconut oil appealing because it is tasteless. This allows them to eat more of it to reach their macronutrient goals.
If you are following a diet for fat loss, it’s important to remember that any form of fat provides nine calories per gram compared to four calories per gram for protein and carbohydrate. So if you are choosing to eat a higher fat diet, you’ll need to eat less in order to keep your energy balance in check.
If not used in the diet, what is fractionated coconut oil used for?
There are many popular uses for fractionated coconut oil. Some people use it as a hair conditioner, skin creme, massage oil, nail care, as a leather conditioner, or as a wood polish. The liquid texture of this oil makes it easier to use than traditional coconut oil.
How much fractionated coconut oil should I use?
The amount you use will depend on how you use it. Here are some popular uses and the amounts that users typically report using.
- In coffee, fans of the oil add anywhere from one teaspoon to two tablespoons of fractionated coconut oil. If you add it with a spoon you may end up with an oily skin on the surface. For that reason, some people use a blender to get a creamy consistency.
- In foods, they use the oil in the same amounts that you would use other types of oil. For example, some people use olive oil when they make guacamole. But you can use fractionated coconut oil instead, adding about one tablespoon of the oil for every avocado used. Some users blend the oil with eggs, olive oil, and lemon to make mayonnaise. You can also drizzle the oil over salads, roasted vegetables, or meats just like you would drizzle other types of oil, using about a tablespoon or two at a time. Lastly, you can blend fractionated coconut oil into yogurt or peanut butter. Start slowly adding a teaspoon at a time and add more as your palate (and stomach) learn to tolerate the oil.
- In smoothies, fitness buffs add one tablespoon of oil to the blender when adding other ingredients such as protein powder, fruits, or vegetables.
- For hair, fans of the oil blend a small amount (1 to 2 tablespoons) into their favorite conditioner for smoother, shinier hair.
- On skin, rub a tablespoon of MCT oil onto dry patches of skin to moisturize and nourish areas that need extra attention.
Also, some people drink MCT oil directly from a spoon. To avoid stomach upset, these oil users advise that you start slowly, consuming 1/2 to one teaspoon at a time. If you don’t have any stomach discomfort after 45 minutes, then take another teaspoon.
Recipes and Preparation Tips
Many people use the oil in smoothies and many others (especially those on a ketogenic diet) add it to coffee.
Safety and Side Effects
You may experience some side effects when consuming coconut oil or fractionated coconut oil. These oils may cause stomach upset or weight gain.
Coconut oil and MCT oil is likely safe when applied to the skin or consumed by mouth. However, health experts caution that this fat substantially increases your caloric intake and saturated fat intake. If you are watching your weight or trying to boost heart health, this product may work against you if you consume it in excess.